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Jordan: In the Balance

02/09/2013 | by Warmoth, Sandra  

Could Syria’s spillover tip Jordan over to failure in capacity, legitimacy, or security?  The increased fragility of Jordan in light of the Syrian civil war spilling over to neighboring countries is of concern because the kingdom helps stabilize the Middle East, impacted by “Arab Spring” events sparked in December 2010.  

Jordan is a strategic buffer for Israel and the Gulf states; failure in capacity, legitimacy, or security could set off destabilizing regional and global events.  For instance, a capacity or security failure could, inter alia, provide enabling conditions for Iran’s further expansion into Iraq, thus exacerbating regional Shi'a-Sunni tensions that could trigger large-scale Arab uprisings and Shi’ite rebellions.  An Arab uprising in the territories in Israel could leave the Jewish State open to external attacks from Iran and jihadists, and cause a spike in weapons trafficking east of the Jordan River.  A major Shi’ite rebellion in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province could impede global oil flows and raise oil prices; and fuel another Shi’ite revolt in Bahrain that could hasten the fall of its Sunni monarchy.  Ensuing power vacuums could enable Armed Non-State Actors (NSAs) to seize ungoverned spaces.  The synergetic effects of such events could risk a regional “cascade of state failure (Magen, 2012, p. 15).

Discerning the extent of Jordan’s fragility, and how Syria’s civil war spillover and other local pressures affect the kingdom’s stability could help inform policymaking and counterterrorism strategies in this volatile region of weak and failing states.

This paper explores Jordan’s fragility in five parts.  The first part focuses on the phenomenon of state failure, and Jordan in its regional environment in the context of this phenomenon.  This section also explains the research methodology.  The second part touches on Jordan’s geo-strategic position and natural resources; and introduces five dimensions of civil war spillover useful for examining pressures Syria’s civil war spillover is placing on Jordan’s stability, which is further affected by lingering spillovers from other countries.  This section also contains a brief review of selective evolving transnational threats affecting Jordan.  The third part reviews trends in Jordan’s stability using indicator scores from the 2006 to 2013 Failed States Indices (FSI), which focus on 12 key indicators (Messner, 2013) that reveal normal pressures states face and pressures that push them to failure.  The fourth part notes the fragility of selected states in the region, identifies an important regional trend on democracy, and considers the potential for a regional cascade of state failure.  The fifth part concludes with a final assessment of the findings.

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